The Guide to Communicating and Collaborating in a Remote Environment
As Covid-19 continues to spread throughout the world, small and large companies alike have needed to be nimble and agile. Mandatory lockdowns and social distancing requirements have made it more difficult to not only interact with customers, but to interact with our own colleagues.
For these (and other) reasons, companies have increasingly embraced remote collaboration. Yet the simple act of working from home isn’t enough to make the effort worthwhile. Companies need to develop systems that facilitate communication and collaboration in a remote-first world.
The great news is that there are several key tips and principles that can help your company get the most out of remote collaboration. Whether you have just started working remotely or embraced remote work even before the global pandemic, we recommend that you follow and implement these strategies.
Set Up Regular Meetings (if you can)
This a tricky one. If your team is heavily dispersed across 10+ timezones and an overlap in work schedule is not possible for EVERYONE in your organization, we recommend skewing toward asynchronous communication and cutting down on the number of meetings you have. Inclusivity is the most important thing for your employee experience, so a meeting-first framework only makes sense if everyone can participate.
If your team members share a similar work schedule and can overlap, then meetings can be an essential part of collaborating in a remote environment. They help both you and your colleagues stay on the same page and ensure that you are working on mission-critical tasks. Consider having a weekly check-in meeting with everyone you work with or interact with on a daily basis. Sure, these meetings can be about business (like short and long-term goals), but they can also be great opportunities to come together as a team and check-in on how each of you is doing. These check-in meetings can raise morale and help you develop close bonds and trust with your colleagues.
You may also want to consider setting up a quick 10-15 minute conversation when a messaging thread (in Slack, email, Microsoft Teams, etc.) extends beyond 10 back-and-forth messages. Some of the advantages of face to face meetings are being able to communicate clearly, gauge body language, save time and increase efficiency - and some problems or conversations merit a face-to-face call to tackle effectively.
Leverage Task and Project Management Tools
This is another excellent way to communicate and collaborate in a remote environment. When you aren’t in meetings, you will still need to stay in touch with your colleagues. From collaborating on distinct projects to monitoring the status of a specific task, we need to stay on top of many different tasks.
The good news is that there are plenty of tools that can help you track and manage tasks. Some of the more popular task management tools include Asana, Airtable, Monday.com, and others. You can also use synchronous communication tools (like Slack) to coalesce discussion around a particular topic. Whichever tools you prefer, they can help you stay organized and on-track with your projects.
Provide Honest Feedback
Working remotely, it is extremely critical to give frequent and honest feedback. Even though it may feel uncomfortable at the moment, this type of frank feedback is a key aspect of being productive and efficient when working remotely.
When working in the office, it is typically easier to have a side chat and speak about anything work-related. It is much more difficult when working remotely, as it takes time to schedule meetings. Nonetheless, you have to make the time to deliver feedback. Be deliberate about this, as you don’t get those easy opportunities to pull a colleague aside and deliver your comments. Doing this, you can help your team avoid future mistakes and become more effective at their work.
Make Sure to Establish Boundaries
Finally, boundaries are a huge part of getting the most out of remote work. As a manager, you don’t want to be emailing or messaging your colleagues every 15 or 30 minutes. You need to let your employees breathe during the workday, so try to take a backseat if you can. There’s no harm in reaching out if you need to check-in with colleagues, but make sure you aren’t doing it too frequently.
Along with this, make sure that your organization is setting some boundaries. By this, we mean that there should not be an expectation that your employees work 24/7. This expectation leads to burnout and low morale. Instead, make it clear that your colleagues need to take time off—especially during the evening.
Navigating the Nuances of Remote Work
Remote work offers many benefits to all types of organizations, but it comes with a requirement. That requirement is to keep communication and collaboration at the top of mind. By leveraging the tips and strategies above, you can get the most out of our remote-first world.